The Final Days of the Dust Bowl?


By Evan MacDonald

Leif Ericson Field, the "Dust Bowl". (The Brooklyn Ink/Evan MacDonald)

Leif Ericson Field, the "Dust Bowl". (The Brooklyn Ink/Evan MacDonald)

“Get out of my house!” he screamed into the young girl’s face.

He was her coach, a tall African-American man dressed in a blue striped shirt and black pants. She was a young soccer player, dressed in red shorts and a grey T-shirt, and she had just become the latest member of her team to be stonewalled by her coach, who was playing goalkeeper during practice.

One by one, the players approached the net and fired a shot in, but they couldn’t seem to get the ball past the man. He was tall, about 6-foot-1, and well built; he took up a significant portion of the net.

And so the playful insults came, one after another, as he smiled at their apparent futility.

“Not this time!”

“Got to be quicker than that!”

“Not in my house!”

The girls, all teenagers, were in the midst of a practice on Wednesday at the portion of Leif Ericson Field colloquially known as the Dust Bowl. Located on 65th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues, the Dust Bowl got its name because for years, grass wasn’t able to grow there.

But over the summer, the city covered the barren field with synthetic turf, rendering the name Dust Bowl largely obsolete. So City Councilman Vincent Gentile’s office held a renaming contest, with three entries — the Dust Bowl, Quaker Parrot Park, and the Parrot Bowl — making the final vote. The latter two names come from the parrots that have been known to frequent the turf.

Locals are torn over which name to choose. A September 15 op-ed column in the Brooklyn Courier called the name Dust Bowl disrespectful for evoking thoughts of Great Depression-era America, and said the parrots deserved their recognition. But Gentile’s online blog said his office received many petitions to keep the name the same.

Voting closed on September 30; the winning name is expected to be announced some time this week.

But today the field is still known as the Dust Bowl. And as the girls practice, one thing becomes apparent: The man doesn’t have the endurance that they do. His moves become slower, and he’s starting to sweat.

Eventually, the tables turn. The girls are scoring much more often, and finally, the man stumbles as he tries to stay upright. He does, but now, all the girls are giggling.

“All right, all right,” he says. “Nice shot,” he tells the girl who scored on him, a blonde teenager wearing a white shirt and black shorts.

Soon afterward, practice breaks, because there’s a high school girls’ soccer game about to begin. The players walk off the field, joking with their coach, who smiles.

Today, it’s still the Dust Bowl.

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